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Showing posts from May 28, 2014

Martial law threatens new blow to beleaguered Thai tourism

The Thai army's imposition of martial law is another blow to the country's tourist industry, adding to the economic pain from six months of destabilizing street protests as class="mandelbrot_refrag"> airlines cut back on flights and concern over insurance adds to travelers' worries. Tourism officials put a brave face on the latest twist in the long-running civil strife, saying it was too early to gauge the impact on tourist arrivals, which already dipped nearly 6 percent in the first three months of the year. "It might look scary and to outsiders it might sound violent, but if we look at it from another angle it should bring more security and peace which should reassure tourists," said Supawan Tanomkieatipume, vice-president of the Thai class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Hotels Association.   true       But some travel agencies said they expected a further fall in bookings after Tuesday's news, especially from corporate travelers, wh

Pope to visit a land of disappearing Christians

When Pope Francis visits the birthplace of Jesus next week, he will address a dwindling population of faithful whose exodus from the Holy Land could turn the shrines of Christendom into museum pieces. While ever growing numbers of Christian tourists pour into Bethlehem and the adjacent Jerusalem to visit the plethora of sites associated with Jesus, many Palestinian Christians hope to join a legion of relatives who have already moved out. Christian communities have been in relative decline across the Middle East for generations, with the recent Arab revolts and the rise of radical Islam only accelerating the process.   true       The cradle of Christianity has not suffered the bloody mayhem seen in nearby class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Syria or class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Iraq , but still the Christians look to leave, blaming the Israeli occupation for withering their economic prospects and hobbling their freedom of movement. Local worshippers hope Pope Fra

Book Talk: Irish author was told 'didn't fit niche'

At 27, Eimear McBride was a young Irish author with a string of rejections from agents and publishers. “They said my writing was very bold, and brave, but they didn’t know how to sell it. It didn’t fit into any niche,” she told Reuters. One publisher even offered to produce her novel as memoir. "They didn’t seem concerned that this hadn’t happened to me. The attitude was, 'Oh well, some of it’s true'." Ten years later she is holding a clutch of nominations for literary prizes for the same debut book: "A Girl is a Half–formed Thing."   true       Winner of the Goldsmiths Prize 2013, shortlisted for the Folio Prize, the Bailey’s Prize for Fiction, the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award; and longlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize - what does all that recognition feel like? "Wonderful. I thought it would be in the drawer forever, so to have recognition, see people react and know that I have achieved the effect I wanted to achieve, is great.&

Chicago man faces 120 years in beating of exchange student

A Chicago man convicted in the savage beating of an Irish exchange student, which left her unable to walk or speak, faces up to 120 years in prison when he is sentenced on Thursday. Heriberto Viramontes, 35, was found guilty last October of bashing two young women over the head with a wooden bat and robbing them in April 2010, including Natasha McShane, then 23, a graduate student from Northern class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Ireland . The attack, which took place in a neighborhood popular with young adults, brought international attention to the problem of violent crime in Chicago, the country's third-largest city. It also stirred Chicago's large Irish-American community, which held fundraisers on McShane's behalf.   true       Viramontes was convicted by a jury of two counts of attempted murder, among other felony counts, and prosecutors are asking for a sentence of 120 years in prison. The beating left the second woman, Stacy Jurich, with ongoing health pr

Nepal opens peaks named after Hillary, Tenzing to foreign climbers

Nepal has named two Himalayan peaks near Mount Everest after Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and opened them to foreigners for climbing, a month after a deadly avalanche killed 16 sherpa guides. The conquest of Everest by New Zealand’s Hillary and his Nepali guide Tenzing in 1953 popularized Nepal as a destination for mountain climbers. The Himalayan country is home to eight of the 14 peaks in the world over 8,000 meters (26,247 ft). Tilakram Pandey, a senior official at the Tourism Ministry, said the peaks - Hillary at 7,681 m (25,200 ft) and Tenzing at 7,916 m (25,971 ft) - were unclimbed so far.   true       Last month's tragedy forced hundreds of foreign climbers to abandon their attempts on Everest, and the renaming exercise marked an attempt to revive Nepal's appeal to mountaineers. "We believe climbers will be attracted to these peaks and help promote mountaineering activities," Pandey told Reuters on Thursday. "Many foreign Alpine clubs

Globetrotting Germans dig deep for Brazilian adventure

For globetrotting Germans who love to travel and love soccer, the World Cup in class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Brazil could be about as close to paradise as many might come. Some like Alex Schmeichel and six friends will spend 10,000 euros ($13,700) each - some taking out loans worth as much as a small car - to follow class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Germany around class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Brazil next month when the three-time World Cup winners try to win an elusive fourth title. "It's money well-invested," said Schmeichel, who works in public relations in Berlin. "It's an investment in our good health. We'll have a great time cheering class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Germany to the title and we'll come back refreshed and more productive in our jobs."   true       But Schmeichel and police officer Matthias Mueller, fitness trainer Lars Knobel, student Marius Purschke, property manager Tino Knobel, soc

Russia's Putin helps release tigers into wild

Vladimir Putin helped release rare, orphaned Amur tigers into the wild on Thursday, the latest of several events apparently meant to portray the Russian president as an outdoorsman with a strong interest in wildlife conservation. _0"> Russian TV footage showed Putin, dressed in jeans and a leather jacket, tugging on a rope to help open a gate and let the tigers - two males and a female - lope off into the wooded taiga of the remote Amur region in eastern Siberia. The males were found as cubs in 2012, presumably orphaned when poachers killed their mothers, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which helped organize what it called the largest release of rehabilitated Amur tigers ever.   true       It said there are some 360 tigers in the wilds of class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Russia , down from more than 400 at the turn of the century, and that poaching, logging, wildfires and shrinkage in the population of the hoofed animals they prey upon post

Obama to pitch U.S. tourism at Baseball Hall of Fame

President class="mandelbrot_refrag"> Barack Obama will make a pitch for U.S. tourism at a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Thursday as part of his efforts to provide a boost for U.S. economic growth. After meeting with the executives of tourism-related companies in Washington, the president was scheduled to travel to the institution in Cooperstown, New York, which celebrates baseball greats like Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson and Mickey Mantle and men with nicknames such as "Old Hoss," "Dizzy," and "Country." The museum, which drew just over 250,000 visitors in 2013, was picked for the event because it draws tourists from around the world, officials said.   true       The president is aiming to draw attention to efforts to boost growth by making it easier for foreign visitors to spend money in the United States. But he may have a hard time diverting attention from a flaring controversy over alleged neglect of veterans' healthcare

San Diego airport relents, allows anti-SeaWorld ad

The San Diego airport has agreed to run an animal rights group's advertisement asking visitors to avoid SeaWorld, a major tourist attraction in the city that has faced criticism over its killer whale shows, the ACLU said on Thursday. _0"> The airport agreed to run the advertisement as part of a legal settlement after the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a federal lawsuit in March accusing the airport and the company that handles its class="mandelbrot_refrag"> advertising of infringing on PETA's free speech rights by initially balking at the ad. "There appears to have been viewpoint discrimination and we are glad that issue was resolved," said Sean Riordan, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties which helped represent PETA in the lawsuit.   true       Officials at San Diego International Airport, without admitting wrongdoing in a legal settlement filed in court t

O.J. Simpson lawyers file for new trial in 2007 robbery

Lawyers for O.J. Simpson submitted a bulky document requesting a new trial for the former NFL star in an attempt to have his 2008 armed-robbery conviction overturned, court officials said on Thursday. _0"> The attorneys for Simpson, who is not eligible for parole until 2017, filed the opening brief in his December 2013 appeal before a midnight-Wednesday deadline, said Nevada Supreme Court spokesman Michael Sommermeyer. The document came in at 19,993 words, well over the 14,000 word limit, along with a request to exceed the word count because of the complexity of the case.   true       Before the brief can be made public, the court will have to accept Simpson's request to go over the limit, Sommermeyer said. In 2008, Simpson, 66, was convicted on charges of burglary, robbery, kidnapping and assault while in possession of a deadly weapon related to a 2007 robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers at a Las Vegas hotel. Simpson testified at the time that he was trying to

Trip Tips: Manaus, Brazil's industrial outpost in the Amazon

Manaus is best known as a stopover for travelers on the way to and from eco tours in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, but in many ways it is more like a bustling frontier outpost of the modern, industrial world on a distant, jungle planet. Visitors may find the sci-fi feel of the place enhanced by the fact that the only reliable ways to get there are by plane or river boat. The next closest urban center, Belém, is 777 miles (1,250 km) away, and Manaus is a four-hour flight from Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. (Map: goo.gl/maps/wQcdt ) Manaus is surrounded on three sides by mostly impassible jungle and on the other by rivers: the enormous Rio Negro and the almost unimaginably more powerful Amazon River.   true       When you step off the plane, even the air can seem other-worldly, a hot, humid blast that feels like steam - so much so that physical effort can be utterly exhausting. But this city of 2 million is more than just jungle. It is a free-trade zone with an oil refinery and doz

Judge reinstates 'To Kill a Mockingbird' author's lawsuit against museum

A federal judge on Thursday reinstated a lawsuit by "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee against an Alabama museum she accuses of illegally profiting from her Pulitzer Prize-winning book. Attorneys for Lee and the Monroe County Heritage Museum announced in February that the two sides reached an out-of-court settlement. But the agreement has fallen through, according to legal filings from Lee's attorneys. An Alabama judge on Thursday reset a trial date for November 2014.   true       Norman Stockman, an attorney for Lee, said in the filing that the museum has not complied with the terms and is attempting to add new requests. The museum's lawyer, Sam David Knight, declined to comment. Details of the agreement have not been made public. The reclusive author sued the museum in October, saying it never paid her a licensing fee for using the novel's title and a mockingbird image on merchandise it sold in its gift shop. Lee's suit contended the museum ear

San Diego airport relents, allows anti-SeaWorld ad

San Diego International Airport has agreed to run an animal rights group's advertisement asking visitors to avoid SeaWorld, a major city tourist attraction that has faced criticism over shows featuring killer whales, a civil rights group said on Thursday. The airport, which had balked at displaying the ad, agreed to do so as part of a legal settlement after an animal rights group sued in March accusing the airport and the company that handles its class="mandelbrot_refrag"> advertising of infringing on its free speech rights. "There appears to have been viewpoint discrimination, and we are glad that issue was resolved," said Sean Riordan, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties, which helped represent People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in the lawsuit.   true       Officials at San Diego International Airport, without admitting wrongdoing in a legal settlement filed this month, agreed to al

Philanthropist, big spender, warlord: Chinese tycoon's Australian faces

Former managers and staff at Liu Han’s Australian operations were dumbfounded when the Chinese tycoon went on trial last month for leading a murderous, mafia-style gang. In 2009 when Liu, 48, launched a bid to take control of Moly Mines, executives then running the Perth-based company ordered background checks. Their findings could not have been more different: Liu was best known in class="mandelbrot_refrag"> China as a philanthropist in his native Sichuan province. One story stood out. Amid the devastation near the epicenter of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, a school Liu had helped build remained standing and all of its students had escaped unharmed. In contrast, many other shoddily built classrooms, so-called “tofu schools”, had collapsed, killing thousands of children. Liu also donated generously to reconstruction and relief efforts.   true       For Moly Mines, Liu's philanthropy enhanced his credibility as an investor in class="mandelbrot_refrag"&g

Trip Tips: Manaus, Brazil's industrial outpost in the Amazon

Manaus is best known as a stopover for travelers on the way to and from eco tours in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, but in many ways it is more like a bustling frontier outpost of the modern, industrial world on a distant, jungle planet. Visitors may find the sci-fi feel of the place enhanced by the fact that the only reliable ways to get there are by plane or river boat. The next closest urban center, Belém, is 777 miles (1,250 km) away, and Manaus is a four-hour flight from Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. (Map: goo.gl/maps/wQcdt ) Manaus is surrounded on three sides by mostly impassible jungle and on the other by rivers: the enormous Rio Negro and the almost unimaginably more powerful Amazon River.   true       When you step off the plane, even the air can seem other-worldly, a hot, humid blast that feels like steam - so much so that physical effort can be utterly exhausting. But this city of 2 million is more than just jungle. It is a free-trade zone with an oil refinery and doz

England's King Richard III to be re-buried near scene of his death

England's King Richard III, whose body was discovered under a municipal car park, will be reburied near to where he was slain in battle 500 years ago, a court ruled on Friday, dashing the hopes of his distant descendants who had wanted his remains to be taken back to his northern stronghold. The unearthing two years ago of the remains of the last English king to die in battle was one of the most important archaeological finds of recent years. Richard was slain at Bosworth Field near Leicester, central England, in 1485, bringing to an end the rule of the Plantagenet dynasty after 300 years.   true       His death was the culmination of the Wars of the Roses, a bloody 30-year power struggle between Richard's House of York and the rival House of Lancaster. The whereabouts of his grave had been a mystery until a skeleton with curved spine and head wounds was found by archaeologists from the University of Leicester, with DNA tests confirming it was indeed the king. The univer